Snow by Orhan Pamuk – Book Review

As I finished the last page of this book, there was a sense of loss as I had finally closed the door to a world which I was completely oblivious of when I turned the first page. Snow is an offering from the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk which will wake you up to many realities. The novel deals with a plethora of themes like the confrontation between the Secular and extremist Islamic worlds, atheism, political secularism, wearing of headscarves by women, technology, religious doubts, freedom etc. Frankly speaking, I had a very deplorable picture of Turkey after I finished the book and thus I was surprised to find on Wikipedia that Turkey is a developed nation.

The story is set in the city of Kars which exists in the north eastern part of Turkey. Kars is now considered as the most poor and neglected part of Turkey and the story begins when the main protagonist of the novel, Ka, arrives in the city amidst heavy snowfall. As he entered the city, the weather conditions worsens and the blizzard cuts off Kars from the rest of the world for three days. The book encompass the events of those three days. Ka is a journalist and a poet and arrives in Kars to interview the families of the “Headscarf girls” who have committed suicide. He is also aware of the fact that Ipek, the women whom he has always loved, is in Kars. As Ka reunites with Ipek, he meets her father Turgut Bey who is an atheist and her sister Kadife who is the head of the headscarf girls and is in love with the notorious Islamist militant named Blue.

The most chilling sequence in the book is the military coup which happens at the National theatre, when during a play depicting a version of Headscarf girls, the soldiers open fire at the audience, who think that the firing is a part of the play and the rounds being fired at them are all fake. At one level the novel is a love story between Ka and Ipek set in troubled times and at another level it is a glimpse into the tussle between religion and politics.

The book can be pretty much summed up by these lines said by one of the characters named Fazil :

“We’re poor and insignificant. Our wretched lives have no place in history. One day all of us living here in Kars today will be dead and gone. No one will remember us;no one will care what happened to us. We will spend the rest of our days here arguing about what sort of a scarf women should wrap around their head, and no one will care in the slightest as we’re eaten up by our own petty, idiotic quarrels. When I see so many people around me leading such stupid lives and then vanishing without a trace , an anger runs through me because I know then nothing really matters in life more than love.”

The book does not stick to the conventional novel format. So, if you are looking for a pacy gripping drama then this is not the right book. It is something which has to be absorbed slowly as the story is created in front of us. And yes, the novel did ruffled a few feathers because of the controversial themes it dealt with.

As rightly reviewed by the Daily Telegraph, it is in every way, An act of bravery and a vital book.

Rating – 4/5

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